Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Day Watch

Day Watch is a film where the trailer makes you want to see it. Why? Because it features a car power sliding on the side of a building, and you just have to know what on earth lead to that moment and how it ties into the whole. It's up there with the explodey White House in Independence Day, or the twister in Twister. So, when it shows up, you feel disappointed that it's simply because a woman is late and wants to get to the top floor of a hotel. All that visual glory, but it doesn't really serve much of a point.

So what is Day Watch then? Well, more than anything, it's a sequel to Night Watch, a Russian blockbuster that has lots of special effects and a plot that only sort of justifies them. Since you need to have a rough idea about what that movie is about in order to understand this one, I'll give a rough plot summary that contains massive spoilers. In short, a man named Anton (Konstantin Khabenskiy) wants his wife back, and that somehow involves almost making her have a miscarriage. As a result, he is put into the middle of a battle between light, dark and visual effects, which is often entertaining if a bit ridiculous. Eventually, that kid that almost miscarries grows up to be a super powerful wizard (light) or vampire(dark), depending on what he chooses. He goes vampire because he finds out what his dad did, and that sets the stage for this movie. There's about a million other things going on, but that's the jist of it.

Thinking that the best thing for Night Watch would be to make it significantly more complicated, we come to Day Watch, which has something to do with a magical piece of chalk that can correct any mistake, that kid being groomed to be both an evil genius while also being an extremely whiny teenager, several overlapping love stories, some extremely wacky body switching comedy, the troubles of only having one pair of pants, and the end of the world, all in a tornado of visual effects. It's impossible to summarize just because so much happens at once, and there are so many different subplots that seem superfluous which eventually tie into the simply insane ending, you just can't grasp how overambitious it is.

For all the ambition of the story, it manages to be strangely thrown together. It is an esteemed graduate of the 1960's Batman school of storytelling. There is not a problem that can't be solved by the introduction of a new and exciting super power out of nowhere that is both never mentioned previously and never seen again. Anton can't get into a building? Well, he'll copy the face of someone else. Truck drivers crashing into each other? Well, the truck will become super tough and drive right through a semi. Every time a problem is introduced a special super power will be created specifically to solve it. Whenever a challenging situation is introduced, the tension is immediately dissipated.

Still, as action movies go, I've seen worse. Director Timur Bekmambetov, who also did Night Watch and Wanted, loves fooling around with special effects and slow motion, and can often stumble upon some really cool visuals as he goes about his business. It might not be very interesting, story wise, but when it comes to making a quality CG exploding movie, he's a cut above Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich. It's worth watching just to see what highly improbable but neat looking effect he'll pull out of his hat next, and even as it flies merrily off the rails - everyone starts fighting with swords for some reason? I guess that makes sense - at least there's something cool to look at.

Here's a movie that is dedicated to nothing more than giving the audience something cool to look at. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it doesn't, but in the end it's pretty safe to say that you likely haven't seen very much like it. Maybe that's a good thing, but it's hard to really get into a movie when it keeps reaching for the shark repellent*.


  1. I saw that you had posted on the blog The Comics Curmudgeon; if you like that blog, you might also like Pointless Planet, which is quite similar but which mocks TV ads rather than comic strips. Check it out:

  2. Don't listen to that Toaster fool, he's just advertising!

    This movie sounds awesome, I had been told by a friend of mine that it and Night Watch are both worth seeing and he explained a little bit about Russian cinema and I kind of forgot what he said. Either way, now that this movie is doubly-recommended I need to figure out some way of seeing it on the cheap. I don't mind a movie just being a blatant attempt at showing me something cool, I kind of like the bare-facedness of it all.

    Also, TOTALLY unrelated, but I was wondering if you had any opinions on Martin Short and his Jiminy Glick character and if you'd ever seen that movie.

  3. Remember though, see Night Watch first, or you will spend this entire thing completely confused. So many things explained in that which are crucial to having a clue what's going on here.

    I haven't seen Jiminy Glick, though I'm generally opposed to fat suits just because they never look right and are often misused. Martin Short can be extremely annoying if miscast, but properly cast he's pretty alright, so I'd have to see a lot more before really judging.